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Published Date: July 30, 2007

Published Date: July 30, 2007

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Short Answers to Challenging Texts: Genesis 1-3

God created Adam first:

Genesis 1-3 contains nothing that suggests that man, because he was created first, was designated by God to function as the authority, or leader of woman. If we argued on the basis of this claim, then we would have to say that the plants and animals were to have authority over human beings because they came before humankind. Rather, the creation story is ordered so that the more complex beings come last; the climax of creation was human beings. On this basis, it could be concluded that Eve was more complex than Adam. In fact, Eve was the climax of creation, for humankind was not complete until Eve was created.

Those who point to God’s special place for the first-born neglect the many examples in Scripture in which preference is given to the second child over the first: Isaac over Ishmael (Gen. 21), Jacob over Esau (Gen. 27), Rachel over Leah (Gen. 29), Ephraim over Manasseh (Gen. 48), Joseph over his brothers (Gen. 37), David over his brothers (1 Sam. 17). Would we say that John the Baptist was called to have authority over Jesus because he came first?

The purpose of the sequential creation of Adam and then Eve in Genesis 2 is to show the need they have for each other and the unity (“one-flesh”) of their relationship.1 Adam alone was “not good,” and he was in need of a partner. It was not until Eve was created that the creation of humankind was complete and good.

Eve was taken out of Adam’s rib (2:21-22):

Some assume that the creation of Eve out of Adam’s rib shows her inferiority or subordination to Adam. The purpose for the creation of Eve out of Adam’s rib was to illustrate their similarity and likeness, for they were both made from the same flesh, and in marriage they become one flesh again (Gen. 2:24). Adam rejoices in this similarity when he exclaims, “this is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23). In 1 Corinthians 11:12, Paul writes, “For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman…” indicating their equality. The source of woman was man, and the source of man is woman.

Adam named Eve:

Adam calling Eve “woman” does not indicate Adam’s authority over her; rather, it is an expression of the similarities that they share, as Adam exclaims “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called woman, for out of man this one was taken” (Gen. 2:23). In the Hebrew, the man is called ish and the woman ishsha, the similarity in the names being intentional. This is a word play, for just as the man (adam) was formed from the ground (adamah), so the woman (ishsha) was formed from the man (ish). These designations refer to the unity of the relationship to one another. To suggest that when Adam called Eve “woman” implies his authority over her is superimposed on the text. Scripture gives no indication that God gave Adam authority over Eve. Rather, by exclaiming “this one shall be called woman, for out of man this one was taken” Adam was expressing joy at the similarity and unity he shared with Eve, a joy he did not exhibit when encountering the other animals.

Adam and Eve had different roles:

Those who claim that Adam and Eve had different roles are referring to the roles of male authority, or “leader,” and female submission, or “helper.” The Scripture contains nothing that suggests that Adam and Eve had different roles before the fall. Nowhere in the text is Adam called be in authority over Eve or to be her leader. Genesis 1:26-30 clearly indicates that both Adam and Eve were made in God’s image and both were given dominion over the earth and its creatures. Eve was made because Adam was in need of a partner to help exercise dominion over the earth (2:18). But, the text does not suggest that Eve’s identity or role was in that of a subordinate helper (see below for meaning of “helper”). The point of the narrative is not that the woman was created to be a helper, but that one male human being was insufficient, and Adam’s momentarily aloneness was the only “not good” in a perfect world! The creation of Eve is to fulfill Adam’s lack and need for a partner who was like him. Hierarchy in human relationships came as a result of sin (Gen. 3:16).

Eve was created to be a helper (2:18):

The Hebrew words used here to describe woman as a helper are ‘ezer kenegdo. The word ‘ezer means “helper” and is never used in the Old Testament to refer to an inferior or to a subordinate. In fact, the word is used in reference to God as our helper (Psalm 10:14; 30:10; 54:4; 70:5; 72:12; 121:2). Clearly God is not our subordinate. ‘Ezer is a sign of strength and power. Kenegdo is a Hebrew preposition and adverb meaning “corresponding to” or “face to face,” so it is best understood as meaning that Eve was a fitting partner for Adam, for she was like him. Eve was created as an equal to Adam. She was given equal authority and dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:28).

Eve was responsible for the fall/The fall occurred because Eve attempted to usurp Adam’s authority:

Both Adam and Eve knew not to eat the fruit (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:2), both disobeyed (3:6), and both were held responsible (Gen. 3:15-22). Nothing in the text suggests that the fall happened because Eve attempted to take authority over Adam. Also, nothing in the text suggests that Adam had authority over Eve before the fall. The snake challenged God’s authority, not the man’s (Gen. 3). The narrative makes it clear that the sin was disobedience to God (Gen. 3:11).

Gen. 3:16: “Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.”:

This verse reflects the consequences of sin due to disobedience. It is not a prescriptive statement about how man and woman ought to relate to one another, nor is it God’s original intent for male and female relationships. Rather, the subordination of women is the result of sin.


1. Richard S. Hess, “Equality With and Without Innocence: Genesis 1-3,” Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity without Hierarchy, (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 2005), 84.

For Further Study:

Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity without Hierarchy, ed. Ronald W. Pierce, Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, with Gordon Fee

Good News for Women: A Biblical Picture of Gender Equality, by Rebecca Merrill Groothuis

Man and Woman at Creation: A Critique of Complementarian Interpretations,” by Christiane Carlson-Thies